Seamus Heaney on Poetry and Time

Seamus Heaney read his poems at UMass Lowell on Friday, February 5, 1982. He wasn’t “Famous Seamus” in those days, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he was a rising literary star. During that period he was teaching part of the year at Harvard University, so organizers at the university and in the Irish-American community had an opportunity to bring him to the campus. The photo below shows a framed copy of a Lowell Sun newspaper article by Estelle Shanley about the reading. Included in the frame is an original print by photographer Jim Cryan who along with the Sun’s Mike Pigeon documented the event. Cryan’s portrait is on the left. Jim gave the print to artist Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, who generously passed it on to me a few years ago. Although I attended the reading, I wrote almost nothing about it in my journal. The day after, I made this note:

“Poetry’s covenant is with the past and future,” Seamus Heaney said last night while reading at the university. Poetry is not tied to the present.